Why Is the Oil and Gas Downturn Leading To a Boom in Couple’s Counseling?


Silhouette of offshore jack up rig at sea during sunsetThe oil and gas glut has made headlines throughout most of 2015, as the oil and gas industry’s problems create ripple effects throughout the global economy. But this November, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on the human side of the petroleum industry’s recent issues.

The CBC offered an intimate peek into the lives of couples who work in the oilfields around Alberta. Sylvain Belisle has been an oilfield worker for the last 16 years, but he was laid off from his job at the “oilpatch” earlier this year. His wife Rita was used to having their Sylvan Lake home to herself for long stretches of time.

Now, the couple is getting used to their cozy new life together.

“Usually he’s gone 20 [days per month] and home 10,” Rita told the CBC. “We’re getting to know each other again… There’s days that you think, you know, ‘Just get the hell out of the house…’ And he’s probably thought the same thing. But at the end of the day we sit down, we figure it out.”

“Though the current downturn is one of the steepest the industry has seen, fundamentals are already in place for an industry come back,” says Marty Stetzer, President, EKT Interactive. “Many OPEC nations are not happy with the Saudi Arabian strategy because of the devastation it is causing to their budgets. The upcoming December meeting should be very interesting.”

Consumers have largely benefited from rock-bottom oil prices, propping up the downstream oil and gas industry. That’s helped counter larger losses in the upstream sector, which has slowed down drilling operations. Worldwide, around 250,000 jobs have been lost since summer 2014.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that the country has lost 35,000 oil and gas industry jobs. And the Belisles aren’t the only Canadian couple struggling to cope with their new living situation.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of people coming in to discuss couples counselling,” said Deborah Kieran, a psychologist with the Calgary Counselling Centre.

Those couples might benefit from the Belisles’ optimistic approach to their situation.

“I think times like this is when it either makes or breaks you. You’ll find out how strong your marriage is,” Rita said.

“Even if we lose our shirts, at the end of the day as long as we’ve got each other then that’s the most important thing,” her husband added.

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